Maritime law, or admiralty law is a specific body of laws that govern right and proper conduct on the high seas, while serving as a compilation of both codified and uncodified norms of the sea concerning maritime offenses or questions of law. Using a combination of U.S. and international law principles, maritime law affords individuals with a number of rights in regards to a variety of legal issues that may arise on navigable waters, which is the exclusive jurisdiction of maritime law.
Typically, admiralty or maritime law covers all contracts, injuries, torts or offenses that occurred on a public body of water. Initially, a public body of water was generally seen as the ocean, hence the involvement of international law. But over time and with such legal acts as the Jones Act of 1920 and Death on High Seas Act, maritime law or admiralty law began to jurisdictionally apply to any vessel upon a public body of water, as well as include any injured person, not solely seamen or crewmembers.
The Maritime Rights of Seamen and Crewmembers
Though numerous maritime rights in specific abound, seamen and crewmembers aboard any offshore vessel for over thirty percent of their working day enjoy workplace injury protection under the Jones Act, which permits pursuing legal claims against negligent vessel operators and owners, should a seamen or crewmember sustain injuries during his or her tenure aboard a given vessel. Moreover, claims under general maritime law principles, such as the maritime rights of passengers and employees to expect the owner of a vessel to provide a seaworthy craft, can still be filed by crewmembers and seamen in the event of workplace injuries. Finally, maintenance and cure benefits are perceived under maritime rights laws as benefits owed by vessel owners to injured crewmembers regardless of fault assignment as to proximate cause or role of contributory negligence in the maritime accident.
The Maritime Rights of Maritime Workers Not Eligible for the Jones Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), affords ample benefits to maritime workers who do not fall under the definition of seamen or crewmember per the previously enacted Jones Act. Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, benefits are required in the event a maritime worker, who is legally defined as a person who works on navigable waters or adjoining areas, is injured during the course of his or her employment. Maritime rights under the LHWCA and the Jones Act both provide maritime workers the legal right to file claims for work-related injuries resulting in pecuniary damages, including temporary maintenance and cure compensation, medical treatment expense benefits, occupational and rehabilitation service costs, and other case-specific damages relevant to an individual maritime rights case. Finally, both Acts proffer maritime rights to the next of kin and designated beneficiaries of deceased maritime workers killed during the course of employment. These rights of the decedent’s beneficiaries include the maritime right of pension or partial salary payments by vessel owners for the lost income associated with the death of the maritime worker.
The Maritime Rights of Passengers
Passengers’ rights under maritime law are a little more complicated. First, as a passenger on a cruise ship or vessel the standard legal rights that would be afforded on land may not apply on navigable waters. Furthermore, injury claims against cruise ship lines are frequently part of the terms of tickets sold to passengers, including frequently inserting terms such as contracts with forum selection clauses, as well as ticket language that carefully and minimally sculpts the potential liability of vessel owners for pre-determined categories of injuries at the exclusion of all others per the terms of the private contract. Additionally, if a passenger does not provide written notice to file a claim or does not provide this notice within the stated amount of time per the actual ticket clauses, claims, and conditions (generally 6 months), a passenger’s claim may be barred.
Filing a Maritime Lawsuit
Consequently, if you are a cruise ship passenger or seamen or maritime worker you have rights under maritime law. To better understand what your detailed rights are, you should speak with a maritime lawyer to help clear up any confusion as to what injuries or incidents are actionable under admiralty law. Moreover, going over your specific case with legal counsel will ensure that you are aware of the compensation that you may be entitled.